Wolf Hunting Continues Near Yellowstone

John Motsinger, Communications Specialist


Gray Wolf (Credit: USFWS)

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission announced on Friday that it is unlikely to reinstate wolf hunting and trapping closures near Yellowstone National Park. The Commission was supposed to revisit their December decision during a teleconference on Jan. 29, but said they “have simply run out of time.”

The closures were initially instated following the killing of several wolves that spent much of their time inside the park. Though killed legally by hunters outside the park, at least five of the wolves wore tracking collars that allowed researchers to monitor their behavior and study interactions with prey species. A few of the wolves were among some of the most famous wolves in the world, including the alpha female of the highly visible Lamar Canyon pack.

Yellowstone wolves have proven to be extremely valuable to researchers as well as the local economy. That’s why Montana wildlife officials took action to protect these iconic and important animals. However, the closures were challenged by anti-wolf groups who believe hunters and trappers should be allowed to continue killing wolves just outside of Yellowstone. Based on a legal technicality, wolf opponents were able to convince a Montana judge to halt the closures, keeping the zones open to hunting and trapping until the case could be heard in court.

The Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission was planning to revisit their decision and potentially reinstate the closures this week, but now the state commissioners are also facing intense opposition from the Montana legislature. A bill that’s been recently introduced would prevent the commission from closing any areas next to any national parks to wolf hunting or trapping. Once again, politicians are trying to take control of wildlife management rather than allowing professional biologists to do their job.

Unfortunately, the statewide wolf hunting and trapping season will now simply close on February 28 as originally planned, without any protections in place for wolves near Yellowstone National Park. We are very disappointed, but are encouraged by the fact that the Commission heard from many Montanans that Yellowstone wolves are too important to manage recklessly. With the strong support Defenders members and other Montanans showed for the Commission’s efforts to protect Yellowstone wolves, hopefully they will put wolf hunting and trapping closures in effect again next year – if the Montana legislature and Governor let them.

In the meantime, we continue to fight the poor decisions and irresponsible practices that affect wolves throughout the Northern Rockies, which have faced incredible adversity since they were congressionally delisted in 2011. That decision – motivated more by politics than science – paved the way for aggressive wolf management policies. Any day now, we will pass the sad milestone of 1,000 wolves in the region killed by hunting and trapping since the delisting. This accelerated killing demonstrates how states like Wyoming are managing wolves as vermin to be eliminated, not as wildlife to be managed responsibly.

We are working hard on the ground and in the courts to get wolves the protection they deserve. Your help makes all the difference in the world. Thank you for working with us to speak up for wolves and all wildlife.

16 Responses to “Wolf Hunting Continues Near Yellowstone”

  1. Karen Ingersoll

    Thank you , John Motsinger. I just would like to make my thoughts known about the wolves that are constantly being hunted down. First, I think there is so much we humans can learn about how to socialize properly from the wolves. They are a highly sociable animal. As far as hunting cattle and the like, I do believe I have been informed that the wolf will hunt caribou and usually when that animal is weakened due to age, injury or illness. This makes them easier to take. The wolf hunts other animals the same way.
    Now what I also want to know, is what the “Powers that Be” think gives them the right to MURDER innocent animals that live in the wild. The wolves are losing their battle and will soon be extinct. Once this happens I am sure they realize that the wolves can NEVER be brought back. This is such a crime against nature.
    It is not up to us to play God. Any governmental organization in the Untied States will tell us how difficult it is to keep track of and to control and run the areas that are within their jurisdiction.
    So many areas of this country are totally out of control: gun control, abuse of: animals, children, the elderly, and women, as well as many others. Then there is illegal drugs, poverty, unemployment, and so many more areas in dire need of improvement. With all of these needing the attention, it is my thought that the wolves should be left alone and concentrate in the areas of much more needed attention. Could you give the “Powers” a message from me, “PLEASE make the right choice to DROP THE VENDETTA against the wolves.”

  2. Richard Street

    Wolves are being maligned and slaughtered by the hundreds. Politicians in Wisconsin, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Minnesota have sold out to special interests (hunting groups and cattle ranchers) to attempt to wipe out wolves. I am EXTREMELY disappointed with Defenders reaction. All Defenders seems to do is send out email after email asking for money. What have you done? Why won’t Defenders call on it’s members and the public at large to BOYCOTT PRODUCTS AND TOURISM FROM ANTI-WOLF STATES?

    • Defenders of Wildlife

      Hi Richard,
      We are also extremely disturbed by the anti-wolf measures that have been taken in the Northern Rockies – and we’ve been fighting them every step of the way, both on the ground and in the courts. We’ve been fighting decisions on the state and federal level that could threaten the future of wolves. Our experts testify at important public hearings, and we’ve gone to court over the management plan in Wyoming (read more at http://dfnd.us/SKhKcT). We work on the ground with ranchers across the region to teach them nonlethal methods of protecting their livestock so that no wolves are killed for depredations. Another very important part of our work has been to work on a local and national level to dispel the myths, misconceptions and misinformation that still exists around wolves in many places. Educating ranchers, landowners, decision-makers and the general public can all help move us toward treating wolves as a species with an important role in the ecosystem, instead of as a problem to be solved.
      We have many supporters that live and work in Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. If we were to organize a boycott of those states, we would impact pro-wolf supporters as well as anti-wolf extremists. We don’t want to punish people just because they happen to be in a state that has wolf hunting. Instead, we are taking a proactive approach by investing our time and resources in public education and coexistence programs.

    • Robbie Lane Jackson

      I totally believe in the power of boycotts. One year in the 1990s, travel agents US-wide started a boycott against Alaska due to problems of animal abuse in a circus touring AK and that had some sort of carte blanch there. Anyway, the boycott got noticed and it showed me plain citizens can make a difference. I agree a boycott should be considered and threatened. What would the towns such as Bozeman and Moab do without the tourists. My best friends go there every yr. there is no reason to slaughter animals at the gates of Yellowstone, literally. Why do people even do that? I don’t understand killing a magnificent, cognizant animal like a dog wolf) or horse, especially when it’s not being done for food or to save a human life. Will someone out there please tell me why. I love MT and WY, and used to go every yr, but I’ve quit that, and I will not go again, until the killing of the Yellowstone wolves is halted. How do those of us on the East coast start this movement?

  3. Adele

    Re the penultimate paragraph above, there are many of us who would like to know exactly what Defenders is doing, has done for wolves last year — not just “fighting poor decisions… working hard….” And next year. Specifics please. You’ve asked for money in response to the $50,000 Idaho will spend to kill wolves – how would that money be spent?

    • Defenders of Wildlife

      Hi Adele,
      I think our response to Richard above might help answer some of your question. There’s a long list of what we’ve done, and will continue to do, to get wolves the protection they deserve. Here are a few of the highlights:
      We have filed a lawsuit against the federal government’s decision to delist wolves in Wyoming and allow them to be managed under a plan that treats them more as vermin than apex predators. You can read about that lawsuit at
      http://www.defenders.org/press-release/conservation-groups-challenge-kill-will-policy-wyoming-wolves and
      We also have projects on the ground in a number of states, including Idaho, that have been very effective at showing ranchers that nonlethal methods of keeping wolves away from livestock work far better than simply killing wolves. In fact, our flagship project is located in Idaho, and have just celebrated its 5th year! https://www.defendersblog.org/2012/10/wolves-among-the-sheep/
      According to the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service, documented sheep losses to wolves in the project area are 90% lower than Idaho loss rates. Projects like this go a long way toward changing people’s minds about wolves and what it takes to manage them, and contributions from supporters like you are what make these projects possible.
      Rallying supporters to respond to the threat of state-level legislation that could be dangerous to wolves is another important part of the work that we do. Take a look a this post from one of our representatives our west: https://www.defendersblog.org/2013/01/wolf-advocates-across-the-west/
      We also work with Native American tribes in many states that are still just beginning to welcome wolves back to their native lands. These relationships are vital to the work that we do: https://www.defendersblog.org/2012/11/for-the-wild-ones/
      Again, this is just a sampling of our work on behalf of wolves. You can learn more on our website (http://www.defenders.org). To keep up to date with our many projects and programs, be sure to check back here often!

  4. Adele

    Well, I am disappointed with Defenders’ lack of innovation, lack of aggressive support of Northern Rockies wolves. You talk about lawsuits, “public education and coexistence programs;” clearly, these are not adequate. Perhaps Richard’s idea of boycotts is not so off base: we need new ideas, new actions – before all the wolves are gone again.

  5. LB

    Agreed Adele and Richard.

    The “usual” methods are no longer working. I have donated to DoW many times, (giving much more than I’m sure most financially stable people donate), and have yet to see any real impact from my efforts. The president and congress aren’t doing shit.

    We need to change our tactics for handling this problem.

  6. Lea

    Please please PLEASE, don’t be killing these wolves who are innocent with babies, if the parents are slaughtered, being left out to fend alone i.e., dieing or kiilled. How can we be doing this for what cause. So people that have cows to be used for money are killed. COME ON PEOPLE GET A ——- GRIP! These wolves were here WAY BEFORE THE ——- COWS.
    I am sorry for the cows BUTTTTTT we should be using cows for money anyway so please stop this horrible slaugther…NOW!

    Thank You,
    ~Lea Richardson

  7. Brandon (pro conservation)

    “Once again, politicians are trying to take control of wildlife management rather than allowing professional biologists to do their job.” I am not anti wolf, they are an amazing animal and essential to a healthy ecosystem. Most animal management recognize overpopulation and look to reduce wolf numbers rather than “slaughter” “wipe-out” or “make them go instinct. After-all, these “anti-wolf states” (along with national dollars) are the ones spending money to bring back and look after these beautiful creatures.
    Did you also disagree with the politicians when, in 2002-2003, biologists attempted to begin wolf management in ID, MT and WY? The total wolf population was 667 in these three states (meeting the population sustainable by the prey base set at the very beginning of recovery efforts) According to NFWS, 6 years later in 2008, the wolf population grew to over 1700 wolves in the same area. Due to court disagreements and further protection of this majestic and powerful predator, management of the species did not begin until 2009. Now, there are wolves dying of disease and starvation and ungulate populations, while stabilizing, have been diminished drastically. If hunters and trappers are wrong in managing the wolf population, are there any suggestions of how else we are to keep sustainable populations of ungulates?? It is common sense: If we are going to manage prey populations, there is no way for the ecosystem to remain balanced unless we also manage predator species. Remember, hunters and conservationists have worked for years to create hunt-able elk populations and continue to contribute millions of hard earned dollars every year toward conserving these species for future generations to experience the hunt. I love the outdoors and hate to see people disrespect animals in their wild habitat. In my eyes it is better for an elk to live a wild life and be hunted (by man or wolf) than to be domesticated for consumption like beef cattle.

    • Jim

      I am with you on this subject, but to reply to your statement; If we are going to manage prey populations, there is no way for the ecosystem to remain balanced unless we also manage predator species.

      I think the best answer would be to let everything be as it was before we came. However, it is unlikely, if not impossible, to make that happen. We make money off of hunting, and therefore no one wants to mess with the system we have. We hunters buy this and that, contribute money that does save animal lives, but also allows us to going and kill one for ourselves.

      So the answer would be to let it be, and allow nature to take care of it’s inhabitants. Yes, ups and downs would occur in populations, but that would eventually subside, and an ecosystem would again develop. It is against our nature to leave things as they re and let someone else do it, but that is precisely what needs to happen.

      The problem is that what hunter would take care of their land and then not reap the benefits in the season? Who would look after what we should not touch?

      The problem isn’t the wolves, the problem is us. Wolves have done nothing other than exist, and have committed no crime that I can see. So why are we trying them? Why do some find them wanting? Why do some wish to pamper them until they once again control what was once theirs? We must let it be, and everything will turn out in the end.

  8. Brandon (pro conservation)

    In regards to the “wolves being treated as vermin to be eliminated” might you mention the population effects that have been seen from hunting and trapping? Despite hunters reaching “the sad milestone of 1,000 wolves killed…” the overall wolf population has continued to grow and biologists expect there still to be nearly 1800 wolves in an area that can sustain just 700 wolves for an extended period of time. Look to both sides of the fight to become truly informed.

  9. Jim

    I think that at the center of the problem is our misunderstanding of each other’s intentions. Very few people would like to completely wipe out a species simply for the fun of it, and not very many more would do it for money. We treat wolves like any other animal, if the population is too big, then we hunt them; if too small the population is supposed to be left alone to grow back.

    The cold truth about this issue is that wolves never will be, never can be, and never should go back to the full extent of their range. Wolves once roamed from the East coast to the West coast, and covered every state except for the ones in the deep south. However, there are too many people for that. So if wolves were to rebound to the numbers some would like to see, you’ll have to force everyone in a large area to vacate. That is why we have parks, to preserve what little we haven’t developed so future generations of all species can have a place to call home.

    A real solution would be to not make this an issue. I mean, what is everybody fighting about? Wolves are here, and they should be here, even if the exist only in the parks. Ranchers have every right to protect their cattle, and wolves have every right to exist. if the problem is just cattle, then find ways and means to protect cattle from being killed. Kill only the problem wolves, not the whole pack. And do like Florida does with alligators, when one shows up where it shouldn’t be, put them back into the sanctuary. Alligators are territorial too, they seem to do fine being transplanted. Only open a regular season when numbers are too high. Bring in out of state biologists so that they aren’t corrupted and biased from either side. And screw our government, they haven’t done anything right i years. It is the people and the citizens of this country that really keep us all moving forward.

  10. David

    Having just spent some time in Wyoming and Idaho and had the incredible fortune to see a lone wolf in the wild, plus other wild species, I had the overwhelming feeling that this dog species should be left alone – completely. For good. That hunting that wolf, or others, is the same as allowing the shooting of one of my own huskies (a related species with a similar appearance and howl), which would not only cruel, but also wasteful of a beautiful majestic animal that has the right to LIVE. Wolves should be allowed to live out their lives undisturbed and unpersecuted, and most definitely not to be alive simply for the fun of a socially questionable, ethically challenged, unkind and cruel thrill seeker with the advanced technology of a gun (how is that hunting in its true sense) who enjoys shooting to death (no doubt they don’t die immediately and they suffer terrible pain after being shot before finally dying of their wounds) what is effectively a dog. It has feelings the same as a dog, and feels pain like a dog, and the cruelty to the wild dog species is equal to the cruelty of shooting a domestic dog. The only difference is one is owned, and one is struggling to survive without the assistance of humans. So why persecute them for their independence? Because they can’t be tamed? Allow wolves their freedom and their right to the land – after all, they’ve been living on the land a lot longer than immigrants from Europe. The killing of wolves, euphemistically called ‘wildlife management’ is a cruel destruction of a way of life by those who care less for the suffering they are causing, whilst they pursue their own destructive agenda. How would the hunter like to be hunted for being wild and free? How is it fair if the hunter carries advanced weapons against a wolf who only has his teeth and instincts in order to survive and to eat. That’s not hunting, that’s easy slaughter that requires no more than a trip to Wallmart, a good aim (my 7 year old could achieve that) and a good squeeze of a trigger – easy. Then a cruel death for an animal who has put all his effort into staying alive for as long as he can, going through starvation and hiding from humans for the most part, enduring the sub zero temperatures, and for what. To be disposed of by a person who can squeeze a trigger as easy as opening a soda can. I’ve killed and its just so easy – way too easy – there is no honor in killing animals from a distance with a gun. Its against nature, its cruel, its wasteful, and the killing of this majestic species needs to stop, for good. Defenders, keep doing all you can to fight for the protection of these free wolves, in Wyoming, Idaho and beyond.

  11. Kerri

    To David (Jan 3rd 2014)
    Thank you, I couldn’t have said it better.

  12. Marie

    The first thing that should happen is study animals with collars should be illegal to hunt…Those are the alpha animals science get the information from and should be left alone.

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